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Keywords:

  • runoff;
  • nutrients;
  • manure;
  • cattle;
  • forage;
  • rainfall simulator

ABSTRACT: Grazed pastures represent a potential source of non-point pollution. In comparison to other nonpoint sources (e.g., row-cropped lands), relatively little information exists regarding possible magnitudes of nutrient losses from grazed pasture, how those losses are affected by management variables, and how the losses can be minimized. The objective of this study was to measure concentrations of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and solids in runoff from fescue plots and relate those measurements to simulated forage management strategy. The study was conducted at the University of Kentucky Maine Chance Agricultural Experiment Station north of Lexington. Plots (2.4 m wide by 6.1 m long) were constructed and established in Kentucky 31 fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) to represent pasture. The experimental treatments applied to the plots varied in terms of forage height and material applied (none, manure, or manure and urine). Runoff was sampled for six simulated rainfall events applied over the summer of 1997 and analyzed for nitrate N (NO3-N), ammonia N (NH3-N), total Kjeldahl N (TKN), ortho-P (PO4-P), total P (TP), and total suspended solids (TSS). All runoff constituents exhibited dependence on the date of simulated rainfall with generally higher concentrations measured when simulated rainfall followed relatively dry periods. The effects of forage height and manure addition were mixed. Highest runoff N concentrations were associated with the greatest forage heights, whereas highest P concentrations occurred for the least forage heights. Manure/urine addition increased runoff P concentrations relative to controls (no manure/urine) for both the greatest and least forage heights, but runoff N concentrations were increased only for the greatest forage heights. These findings indicate that runoff of N and P is at least as sensitive to amount and proximity of preceding rainfall and suggest that managing forage to stimulate growth and plant uptake can reduce runoff of N.